2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

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Bob Burd
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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by Bob Burd » Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:44 am

Day 7: Potluck Pass Peak

Day 7 saw us at the South Lake TH, going over Bishop Pass and across Dusy and Palisade Basins to Potluck Pass to climb the 12,698-foot summit immediately south of the pass. Easy to say, but a long day to execute. There were 9-10 of us for the 6a start, two having started early and others coming later. It's a very pleasant hike up to Bishop Pass in the shade of the Inconsolable Range, going by some lovely lakes and taking the front group just shy of two hours. At 12,000ft before 8am, the sun was a welcome addition to the day. Crossing Dusy Basin to Thunderbolt Col is fairly pleasant too, except perhaps the last quarter mile or so over large boulders and sometimes loose morainal material. With a third hour required to reach the col, a fourth and change were needed to cross Palisade Basin and reach Potluck Pass. From here, Rob and Sean R headed north to tackle Mt. Sill from the SW side. An ungodly amount of rubble must be surmounted to climb it from this side, an effort that would take them nearly 16hrs to accomplish. Not recommended.

Bob P and Eric put on rock shoes while we contemplated how to climb Potluck Pass Peak. Our view from Palisade Basin had not been encouraging as it looked exceedingly difficult, though we had been told by Sean O, who'd climbed it a few years ago, that it goes at class 4. While they were changing footwear, I wandered over to the east side of the ridge in search of something more promising. I found something that looked like it might work and started up. The others, noticing I hadn't come back after a few minutes followed after me and up the steep ramp/gully I was climbing. Some five minutes later I had worked my way to the crest and wondered where the others had gone - no sounds came from below. I then spied Bob P well along the crest, having somehow navigated around me and gotten far ahead. We spent a full hour enjoying a fine class 3-4 scramble on decent granite, aided by convenient sandy ledges. Bob P made a remarkable ascent, particularly considering he's 12yrs my senior and more than three times Eric's age, beating the two of us easily to the summit.

The highpoint is a refrigerator-sized block of granite that conveniently holds 3-4 climbers. It looks out impressively over the Palisade Creek drainage to the south and the backside of the Palisades to the north. A second group of three climbers (Mason, Scott & Gavin) were making their way towards the summit as the three of us were descending as a group, taking a lower line to see if we couldn't get off the east side of the ridge in a faster fashion than we ascended. After returning to Potluck Pass, Eric headed up to tag Barrett Peak while Bob P and myself set off independently across Palisade Basin on our way back to Bishop Pass and the TH. I found Matt, Iris and Chris in Palisade Basin - they would make the third group of three to attempt the summit. They were cheery enough, but it was clear they would get back well after dark at the rate they were going. I got back to South Lake TH shortly before 5pm, the second longest outing after Mt. Morrow two days earlier. The second group would be some 4hrs later in arriving, the third group later still, not returning until after 11pm. Understandably hungry, the dined at the only place open that late in Bishop, Dennys, and wouldn't get to bed until nearly 2am.

Meanwhile, Michael G, JD and Robert had started from South Lake at 4am to do the Thunderbolt to Polemonium Traverse. They would be out for over 19hrs, returning about the same time as the last group from Potluck Pass Peak. Ouch. Unfortunately Michael rolled his ankle twice on the trail on the way back. In the morning it was swollen to the size of a softball, ending his Challenge run.

A few other participants chose easier targets, Agassiz for Ken and Patrick, Chocolate for Michael C. On a more ambitious note, Sean O set out from Sabrina to tag Pt. Powell, Pt. Wesley, Pt. John (Mt. Powell on the topo), the two Clyde Spires and Crumbly Spire in just under 11hrs. Not too shabby...

Bob Pickering atop Potluck Pass Peak
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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by Bob Burd » Sat Aug 13, 2016 2:17 am

Day 8: FIrebird Peak

A somewhat easy day, about 11mi and 5,400ft of gain to Firebird Peak, the highpoint of the long ridgeline extending north from Norman Clyde Peak. The promise of a short day brought out a large contigent of almost 20 participants, though not all made it for the 6am start. Matt and Iris both started after 10am, preferring much-needed rest after a very late return the previous night.

We started up the South Fork Trail, taking it to Brainerd Lake (though at least one of us knew of the shortcut bypassing the lake), then up a use trail to Finger Lake. From the lake outlet it was easy enough to get onto the East Ridge and climb it to Firebird Peak, taking about an hour. Sean made it to the top in just over 3hrs, the rest of us coming it at various times over the next few hours. I stayed atop long enough to collect six of us, and met up with a dozen others at various points along the East Ridge on the way down.

Tomorrow is going to be the hardest day of this Challenge, another trek up Taboose Peak for an obscure summit that few have heard of. Good thing we'll get a chance to rest more tonight...

Six at the summit with Norman Clyde in the background:
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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by ScottHanson » Sat Aug 13, 2016 4:40 pm

A few comments from the grandstand:

Sorry to hear that Michael G. rolled his ankle on day 7 during return trip on trail. I rolled my ankle last year during return trip on trail from Whitney. All it takes is a short lapse of concentration and then land the inside edge of foot on the outside edge of a rock about the size of a loaf of bread.

Always fun to read Bob's trip reports and see the mix of veterans and newer participants. Have to keep an eye on Rob H. and Scott B. in future SC's. Hope Iris can succeed in last two days so she can join Laura M. as only two women to complete all 10 designated challenge peaks in a single year.

Have fun and stay safe out there.

Scott H.
Last edited by ScottHanson on Mon Aug 15, 2016 5:51 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by Bob Burd » Sun Aug 14, 2016 4:41 am

Day 9: White Mtn

Long day today. It has become almost customary that we trek up Taboose Pass each year. Today's goal was unofficially named White Mtn south of the pass. We had first walked by this fine-looking peak two years earlier on our way to Striped South. Eric found that Secor mentions Bolton Brown had called this "White Mtn" while at the summit of Arrow Peak to the west. He easily convinced me to consider it, though as luck would have it Eric had to leave the Challenge early for a family engagement and would be unable to join us. We had only seven folks at the Taboose TH for 5am start, though four others had started earlier and we could see the headlights of late-comers as we were starting up the trail. We used headlamps for only the first 20-30min, after which it was a race to gain elevation to the pass before the day started to warm, given the low starting elevation. Sean O, Robert and Gil were the first three to go over the pass in well under 3hrs, I was somewhere around 3.5hrs, not as fast as last year, but feeling pretty good nonetheless. About 2/3 of the way up we passed by a couple sleeping alongside the trail, only their hair sticking out from their sleeping bags. Far as I could tell, they never stirred as we all passed by over the course of an hour or so. A group of five backpackers were hanging out at the Pass when I arrived with Chris. I took a photo of the colorful collection milling about the NPS sign which prompted one to ask, "I've got a question - why do each of you coming up to the pass take a picture of us?" I told them it was because they make for a nice composition, but really it's just so I can record the time I reached the pass.

From Taboose Pass, one can look south and see the west half of our mountain less than two miles to the south.Chris and I headed off together but veered off in slightly different directions as we approached the unnamed lakes on the north side of White. I had been staring at the NW Ridge on the way over, a route described by Secor as class 3 but looking long and tedious with a great number of pinnacles, gendarmes and blocky obstacles along the 2/3mi ridgeline. I decided to go to the east end of the two lakes and tackle the mountain more directly up one of the gullies on the north side. For most of the route this was a decent class 2-3 affair, but it had a stretch of perhaps 100yds that I found somewhat desperate, owing to more friable granite that made for poor holds. I would need to find another way off the summit. I managed to make my way up to the crest and noted a small cairn sitting atop the east summit. I initially started in that direction but as I got closer I realized the highpoint was behind me, to the west. I changed directions and wound my way along the castellated ridgeline to the large summit block. An awkward mantling move on its east side got me to the top around 10:50am. I took some photos, dropped back off the summit and ate my sandwich, wondering if anyone else had already been here. There was no register so I cobbled one together to leave for the others. As I was preparing to leave, Robert popped up from the west some 15min after I'd arrived. He feigned great disappointment in having been beaten to the summit which elicited a grin from me. After explaining my awkward mantle move on the summit block, Robert looked at it and calmly made use of two fine footholds on the north side to make a far more elegant set of moves in mere seconds. Clearly he was the better rock climber.

Scott showed up a few minutes later, also having used the NW Ridge route as Robert. Most of the others would do likewise and few would give it much praise except as a ridge-traversing exercise. The south side of the mountain looked to make for a much easier decent as Robert and I discussed which of several options might work best. I started off along the ridge to the west, intending to drop down the south side when I reached a notch about 100yds west of the summit. Instead, I found an interesting sandy ramp that led down diagonally back towards the gully I had ascended on the north side, bypassing the more desperate section above. This worked quite nicely, easy class 2-3, and got me back down to the lakes in an hour. I was feeling pretty good at this point and decided to head off for a bonus peak in the way of unnamed Peak 12,851ft a mile NW of Taboose Pass, a class 2 effort (some class 3 at summit ridge) that would take up an extra hour and half's time. It would be after 5pm before I'd made it all the way back down to the Taboose TH. Robert and Gil had gotten back almost half an hour earlier. They were enjoying ice-cold refreshments provided by my brother who was waiting for the returnees. Sean O came motoring down a few minutes later, having done a circuit of Wynne, Pinchot and Striped South (he found the ridgeline connecting Striped South to White a no-go as did Chris who had planned to do it in the other direction). In all we had seven folks make it to White Mtn's summit, five others choosing to climb Cardinal instead, and the unstoppable Scott climbing both. He would be the last one off the trail, stumbling back at 8:40pm.

Our goal today, White Mtn on the west side of Taboose Pass:
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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by Scott Barnes » Mon Aug 15, 2016 11:44 am

Well, that was tremendous fun. If only it didn't end so soon.

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by patacap » Mon Aug 15, 2016 4:48 pm

I had a blast as well, but you are one sick man, Scott :). Congrats on the Polka Dot. You are ahead of schedule!

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by Bob Burd » Tue Aug 16, 2016 7:57 pm

Day 10: Glacier Spike

Our last day was a pleasant hike out of Onion Valley, going over Kearsarge Pass and then up Glenn Pass to climb a small pile of rock on the east side of the second pass, a little over 8mi one-way. Thirteen of us started out at 6am, taking anywhere from three to five hours to reach Glen Pass by way of the Kearsarge Pass Trail and the PCT/JMT. We were treated to fine views along the way of Kearsarge Pinnacles/Lakes, Bullfrog and Charlotte Lakes, East/West Vidette, Mt. Bago, Charlotte Dome and other sights. There were a suprising number of backpackers coming down the south side of Glen Pass, dozens upon dozens of them, most probably doing the JMT and others doing the Rae Lakes Loop. As we arrived at Glen Pass we joined the usual group of backpackers taking a break there, eyeing our goal to the east. Secor rates it as class 3 from Glen Pass, but that turns out to be somewhat deceptive. We initially started off along the north side of the ridgeline where the going was class 2 over sometimes loose boulders and fractured rock. The quality of the rock improved higher up, going to the advertised class 3 as expected. But upon reaching a false summit, we came to find there are a series of difficult pinnacles that make up the summit ridge, the highpoint being well to the southeast past about five of these. Sean O found a route through/over the pinnacles but it was above a class 3 rating. The 3-4 others of us that were initially following thought better of it, and eventually figured out how to drop off the south side of the ridge and do an
end-around through easier rock before climbing back up to the summit with some final class 3 scrambling. The easier way to climb the peak from Glen Pass is to stay off the ridge and on the south side until more directly below the summit, which a number of later-arriving participants figured out.

Sean O and Gil arrived first, closely followed by Mason and myself. We found a register in a PVC tube, and is often the case with this type of container, the booklet inside suffered from water damage and was difficult to read. It had been left by the SRC (Sierra Register Committee) back in 1991, around the time they were collecting up old registers for preservation, an effort that proved to have less support than they expected. As we snacked and lunched, Sean pointed out that it would be easier to descend to the south, going through the bowl west of Mt. Rixford to return to the trail, avoiding the return to Glen Pass. Gil and I used this cross-country route to great success, shaving more than a mile and a half off the return. Sean, meanwhile, headed up the tedious looking west side of Mt. Rixford since he hadn't been to that SPS peak yet, an example of what Eric Su had earlier dubbed as being "caught up in the SPS vortex".

In all we would manage to get eleven of us to the summit of Glacier Spike. Robert and Scott (no surprise) made a circuit by tagging various other bonus peaks, Scott in particular finishing up the ten days with a six peak effort, including Dragon, Gould, Painted Lady, Rixford and Falcor. Gil and I were the first to return to Onion Valley shortly after 1:30pm, well ahead of the expected 3pm return time. This was unfortunate because my brother was planning to bring the cooler of iced beverages closer to the expected time. A frantic phone call to Jim roused him from his motel in Independence, prompting him to arrive half an hour later. We sat there in the middle of the Onion Valley parking lot over the next 4-5hrs, slaking our thirst and welcoming the others for the finish. Sean R, Iris and Matt came rolling in not long after 6pm, after which I headed down. Scott and Robert would return several hours later.

Sean O picking his way among the summit ridge pinnacles on Glacier Spike:
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I'd like to thank everyone who came out for the Challenge this year, I had a fantastic time and trust most of the others did likewise. I'd especially like to thank Laura for hosting all of us one night for a BBQ dinner at the Moose Lodge, and Jim for his refreshing beverage assortment those last two days.

Some notable performances for the ten days:

Scott Barnes: One of only three to do all this year's Challenge peaks, plus a record-setting 28 bonus peaks for a total of 38 peaks. He averaged over 12hrs a day on the move covering more miles than anyone else. Plans to train even harder next year and break his own record. Eric Su's comment one day: "That guy's fucked up."

Iris Ma: Only the second woman to complete 10 Challenge peaks in ten days. She was out over 17hrs for Potluck Pass Peak, and when everyone had written her off the next day, she started for Firebird at 10:45am and finished before sundown. Tenacious, this one.

Bob Pickering: At 67, Bob is a veteran Sierra climber and a meticulous planner. He completed all seven of the days he joined us for and took the stage win on Day 2. He beat me to the summit of Potluck Pass Peak with a remarkable show of scrambling agility over difficult terrain. He seemed to enjoy that moment a great deal. :-)

Gavin Goerke: First time joining us for the Challenge, a quiet 20yr-old with solid skills. Climbed 5 Challenge peaks in 7 days with 4 bonus peaks. Missed the last day's summit by only 100ft, a heartbreaker.

Ning Yeh: A 5ft4in dynamo. She started hiking two years ago when she retired. Climbed all three Challenge peaks she participated in. Saw Bob Pickering's entry in the Kuna Crest register: "Bob Pickering, 67yrs" and wrote underneath, "Ning Yeh, 68yrs" while exclaiming, "Hah!"

Evan Rasmussen: Six days, zero peaks. Lots of good fishing, though.

Longest outing: Robert Wu/Michael Graupe/JD Morris, 19hr20min on the Thunderbolt-N. Pal Traverse out of South Lake
Shortest outing: Michael Chapiro, 2hr30min to Chocolate Peak

Completed 10 Challenge peaks: Bob Burd, Scott Barnes, Chris Henry, Sean Reedy, Iris Ma, Sean O'Rouke

Jerseys
Polka Dot (King of the Mountain): 1. Scott Barnes, 38 peaks / 2. Sean O'Rourke, 27 peaks / 3. Eric Su, 20 peaks
Yellow: 1. Bob Burd / 2. Scott Barnes / 3. Chris Henry
Green (over 50yrs): 1. Bob Burd / 2. Bob Pickering / 3. Rob Houghton
White (under 25yrs): 1. Eric Su / 2. Gavin Goerke / 3. Loren Davis

The following user would like to thank Bob Burd for this post
96avs01, colinr, hightinerary, labgloves, patacap, seano

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by colinr » Wed Aug 17, 2016 6:37 am

Bob, thanks again for organizing the Challenge!

I'm laughing out loud here at Eric's reaction to Scott; coming from him, that's saying something! I egged Scott on every chance I got, but he certainly didn't need it.

Here's my story album for Day 1 (more to follow):
https://goo.gl/photos/PfDmBdkEhcDPkUp46

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by Scott Barnes » Wed Aug 17, 2016 4:31 pm

I can't stop thinking about how much fun that was. Great mountains, great views, great memories, and great people. My only regret is that I didn't start participating sooner. And now I'm about to leave for work, and work involves no mountains and no outdoors. What a drag.

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by Iris Ma » Wed Aug 17, 2016 8:33 pm

Bob, thank you for the incredible experience and memories I'll never forget! I had so much fun and miss everything - the mountains, the views, the people. It's weird being back where everything is dirt free. Like Scott said, work is such a drag. I still have this awesome cough which helps scare people away.

Sean, thanks for the nice pics and recap! Keep 'em coming :D

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by labgloves » Thu Aug 18, 2016 3:04 am

Bob -

I had an truly fantastic time at this years challenge. Like others I suspect, I'm still coming down from the high of good company, great peaks, mountain lakes, and the competitive inspiration that comes from being around so many impressive athletes. I'm training for next year already ... (ha)

I'd like to emphasize one additional notable performance:

Bob Burd: At 55, Bob recaptured the yellow jersey for the first time since 2011. Perhaps Bob will correct me, but I believe he has become the oldest yellow jersey winner in the history of the event. :-P

Thank you!

- Chris

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by colinr » Fri Aug 19, 2016 2:41 am


The following user would like to thank colinr for this post
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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by bobpickering » Sun Aug 21, 2016 6:33 am

Bob, thank you for all you do for the climbing community. As others have already said, the Sierra Challenge was a really special experience. I’m sure you put a ton of time into planning and staging it.

I also want to thank you for your great trip reports. Any time I want to do a new peak, I just follow your trip report. All I have to do is add about 50% to your time to know how long it will take me.

I pushed myself harder in the challenge than I wanted to and had a great time doing it. I’m still recovering a week later. I’m very glad I skipped the harder days. Better to be seven for seven than have a few DNFs.

I want to add that the people were great. Everybody was really supportive. Thanks for a great time!

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by Turtleggjp » Sun Aug 21, 2016 7:43 am

I want to say thanks to everyone as well. I'm getting some much needed rest this weekend, and have worked on the first 6 days worth of my videos already. I plan to write up detailed reports of each day and post them here, since I don't have my own website (yet). I'm also planning to upload my videos on vimeo for the first time, for those that are curious. I'm using a free account for right now, so I can only upload 1 video (500MB) per week. I have to compress some of the videos a little more than I would like in order to fit inside this quota, but I may try to make them available other ways too (such as bittorrent). You can check out the first one here:


*Do the vimeo tags not do anything?*

I started with Day 3, since it was the first one I was able to get to the right size. I'll be posting Day 1 next week (it's ready to go now, along with Days 2-5).

Matt

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Re: 2016 Sierra Challenge Aug 5-14

by ScottHanson » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:59 pm

Super cool Matt Y. The Sierra Challenge enters the brave new world of video and audio. I think it may work best that you did this via a predominantly solo adventure. You let the landscapes do "the talking" but still add in some reflective comments along the way. What a long day!!

Scott H.

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